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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  September 3, 2013 11:00pm-12:01am PDT

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troops, where it is stored, securing them, i think it would be extraordinarily difficult. >> professor james morrow, university of michigan, thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> thank you. >> "hardball" is next. obama's third election. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in new york. let me start with this. i can't think of another u.s. president who has done anything like this. president obama is now asking a hostile u.s. house of representatives to back an act of war against syria. he is asking democrats to back an act of war their voters oppose, asking republicans to back an act of war and a president their voters oppose.
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my questions tonight, why should a congress overrule the beliefs of the american people and back an active war that people clearly do not support? why should republicans associate themselves with a president they do not wish even to be seen with? and why should pelosi's democrats make up with their votes the votes obama can't get from republicans? won't that be making this and what comes of it a democratic war? isn't the safer political vote in both parties now to vote against this act of war, especially when we don't know what it will lead to? most vitally, why did president obama call what is basically a no-confidence vote on his administration? does he believe that his party cannot possibly let him lose? does he believe that the republican rank and file is not willing to destroy his presidency, using whatever weapon they are handed? howard fineman is editorial director for "the huffington post." and peter beinart is editor of the blog open design. two new polls today. in a pew poll, just 29% favored them. nearly 60% oppose missile
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strikes while just 36% supported them. and the opposition is bipartisan. take a look. a majority of democrats, 54% oppose military action. the number is almost exactly the same among republicans. 55% oppose. the numbers among independents even starker here. two-thirds of them, by 2-1, they oppose any strike against syria. i want to start with howard fineman with my big question here. why should the united states in its individual votes come up with 60 senators and 218 house members, why would there be enough votes to do either in either body, supporting a war that nobody in this country seems overwhelm leg enthusiastic about? >> well, i'm not sure i have a good answer for that, chris. i spoke yesterday to senator -- to a couple senators who were on their way back from recess, democrats. and i said what do you think? and they said, well, we're really not excited about this. we want to know more details. i was impressed by how reluctant they were as the default mechanism. number one, i would say also
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that the hearings today, the first day of hearings, the open hearings in the senate foreign relation committee were confusing and did not really help make the case because what the president is trying to do i think in the face of obvious public opposition is to so taylor this request for congressional support as to make it narrow enough to gain majority support. but if the goal, the long-stated goal of the administration has still been to see assad go, some people are saying, well, if that's the goal, why aren't we doing something more, so even people who might otherwise be disposed to support this, if you follow, they're saying why should we support this piddling maneuver when your stated goal is to get rid of assad? so i thought there was a measure of confusion. >> right. >> in the hearing today with
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secretary kerry and secretary hagel and general dempsey that did not help the administration's case one bit. >> well, let me go to beinart on that one. peter, the question is if they had to narrow this mission so much that they have to proscribe any further kind of action on the ground, any kind of boots on the ground, any kind of further follow-up, it's narrowed down to what pat leahy wants in the judiciary committee, something so narrow, one strike only and then we come home, i've never heard the american people supporting one strike only. either you're a hawk or a dove. is anybody in the very middle not a hawk or a dove, they just like to strike once and come home? i don't know that passion. >> you're making a really good point. this goes back to vietnam. you remember the polling in vietnam found the people either wanted to go in and win or get out. this kind of intermediary position is very unsatisfying, and it's also incoherent. on the one hand, we say we're only doing this to punish him for chemical weapons, and we're not trying to change the course of the war. why are we arming the syrian rebels, and it seems like going further and arming them even more now. we're trying to have it both
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ways. >> look, here is my problem. and this is a serious moral problem too. if we bomb, use cruise missiles against damascus, people are going to die that night. people are going to die and there will be hospital scenes the next day with people in the hospitals with legs and arms missing. if this president pushes the button, people will die. will this mysterious signal get delivered? will a signal go to assad that he will never again use chemical weapons, and the iranians i guess will never go nuclear with their weaponization program? we don't know that. in other words, the only thing we really know is we'll be kill canning more people, committing an act of war with this notion somehow that it's smoke signals. we're using western union. what we're doing is killing people and calling it a message. howard? >> i've got to say, chris, based on what i saw today of the senate foreign relations committee hearing, the only message we're sending to the world is one of confusion. >> yeah. >> again, as we said before, our stated policy goal is that we want assad out.
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we would prefer to have it either by diplomatic means, or have the opposition, which we refuse to arm or help until recently do it. it's just utterly confusing. >> let's go to secretary of state john kerry who today secretary of defense defense hagel and the chairman of the joint chiefs, martin dempsey. they faced some heat as they laid out the administration case for action in syria. secretary kerry said a strike would degrade assad's ability to use chemical weapons. he told senators iran, north korea and hezbollah were watching what we do closely. but he said the president was not asking the u.s. to, quote, go to war. and he said this was not another iraq. let's listen. >> we are especially sensitive, chuck and i, to never again asking any member of congress to take a vote on faulty
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intelligence. and that is why our intelligence community has scrubbed and rescrubbed the evidence. we have declassified unprecedented amounts of information. and we ask the american people and the rest of the world to judge that information. we know what happened. for all the lawyers, for all the former prosecutors, for all those who have sat on a jury, i can tell you that we know these things beyond the reasonable doubt that is the standard by which we send people to jail for the rest of their lives. >> let me go to peter beinart. do you believe if we attack syria, hoping to send a signal not to use nuclear weapons again, that this will be the last act of war we commit against them? >> we can't know that. as you were saying earlier, the international crisis group said that if assad felt like his regime was in peril of falling, he might use chemical weapons again if it was the only thing that could keep him in power. and we have, as howard said, our goal is to topple assad. so we can't guarantee. >> and by the way, casey
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reported today for nbc that kerry made the point today, he can't even say there won't be boots on the ground in the future. the united states boots on the ground. >> yeah. he -- senator kerry said that two or three different ways and shapes and forms, which didn't help his case either. because it's clear that senator kerry and the president want to preserve their options. >> sure. >> and don't want to use the phrase degrade presidential authority here. so that's another element of confusion here. they're going to the congress for a specific, narrow authorization while they also want to preserve the president's broad war-making powers. that adds another tension to this whole discussion. >> i want to cut to the chase here about politics. it's what i cover. i want to get to peter on this, because peter, you've been impressive over the years, the way you have nuance thinking about things.
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but let's go to the mix of this thing. it seems to me that republicans, members of the house, not the leadership who have to be establishment, but down the line, people from the south, people from the far west, actually the rocky mountains, the more conservative areas of the country, all they're going to do if they support this military action is get themselves an opponent in the next election. it seems to me the safest vote for them is to say you democrats, you put together 218 in the house, 60 in the senate. we'll just sit back and watch. this is going to be your idea to do this. and nancy pelosi will have to scramble and scrounge around for votes because the republicans won't come out with them. isn't the safest mood for the republicans is to give the absolute minimum number of votes to the president and force the democrats to come up with their maximum number of votes? that to me, howard and peter, peter first, is the politics of this thing, and why it's disastrous for the president. because he is basically saying to the republicans, if you want a free ride on this, i'll cover for you with nancy pelosi's democrats. your thoughts, peter. >> you are absolutely right. look, there is a split in both parties, and it's a split between elite and mass. the further you get away from washington and from the farm policy elite, the more skeptical
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people are. >> i agree. >> so while some people running for president on the republican side may well support it, you saw that mitch mcconnell, who is going to face the republican primary voters who don't like him that much, the tea party types in kentucky hasn't said he is for it. i think you're exactly right. i just don't know if the democrats who are also facing resistance from their activist base will go along and save the president's bacon. >> that's my question, howard, saving his bacon is a rough way to put it, but it's fair. if the house republicans, rank and file below the top people like cantor and mr. boehner, the speaker, if they say no, no, you don't need my vote, i'm not giving you my vote, and they get nancy to cook up some more democrats. they're saving their president. what happens? does pelosi have to come up with a 2/3 vote for the democrats to win this thing? that's the frightening thing she is in the box for now, it seems to me. a huge super majority she's got to come up with. >> i wouldn't necessarily say frightening, but i would say historically very ironic and unstable, chris, because you're basically asking the democrats to be the war party here. >> yes, yes. >> after their nightmarish experience of going along with george w. bush in iraq. and sort of the shadow of
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hillary clinton is kind of behind here too. don't remember to a certain degree, she and the establishment democratic party lost the presidency in 2008 to barack obama because of her decision to vote in favor of the iraq war resolution. that kind of folk memory is there with a lot of democrats, traditional democrats who will say to themselves, wait a minute, why are we doing this? and furthermore, why are we doing this for a president, president obama, who got to power because of his very skepticism of this kind of thing? it's maybe in some respects an unfair comparison. >> i think it's so well said, howard. this to me among our viewers i bet they're 50-50 on this. they may be 60-40 against it, but they're not gung-ho for this war because they don't like war in the middle east. it always ends, like it's built on sand over there, quicksand. you go in. you say you're going to bomb a couple of factories, missile sites or airfields. and then whoa happens is they retaliate and then we retaliate. and then it might become a regional war. because if they're samaritan other side, they may take a couple of shots at israel or jordan or somewhere else. they may want to bring in what they call the zionist entity so they can be the good guys on the
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arab side. your thoughts what this could lead to if we do attack. >> right. war is always unpredictable. the iraq war was also supposed to be short and over quickly. i think there are two contexts here that have really changed in american politics. the first is the dramatic decline in trust by the american people of their leaders on questions of war and peace as a result of iraq and afghanistan. the second is remember, we're in a situation of fiscal sequester where core functions of government at home are being cut to the bone. and that is the context in which people are asking for this. it makes it much harder for president to win. and adding that, i think there are a lot of people who wonder how much his own heart is in this. senator kerry has been much, much more passionate on this question than he has. >> howard my friend and long-time colleague, my question to you. if this thing goes down in the house of representatives the next week or so, it doesn't get 218, what will be the emotional reaction of republicans and then democrats? will there in fact be cheering? i think there will be if they
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defeat the president on what is effect in the british system a no-confidence vote. they bring him down on this as commander in chief. >> well, especially among the tea party types, chris. because not only will they have what they regard as a substantive victory, but they'll have a political and emotional one. with the tea party types, just the very words "barack obama" make their blood boil. so they'll be happy for any defeat, almost any defeat he would encounter. i think it's not over. i think it could be -- it could be close. but we've laid out here i think all the reasons why this is very, very difficult. by the way, when john kerry says that it was a courageous decision of the president to go to the congress, the translation of that was he doesn't think it was wise decision. >> my big concern is it's going to make one party carry the war load when it doesn't believe it. >> right. >> peter, last word. why would a party want to carry the load of a war it doesn't believe in? >> i think it's a principled
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decision for president obama. i think he thinks it's good for american democracy to give congress this choice, but i think it's also a very, very risky decision. >> i think this is a third election. i think it's a tough one. thank you. coming up, don't be surprised if president obama needs democrats, lots of democrats to win a majority in congress, because he ain't going to get many republicans. we're going to talk to two democrats who represent the split in the democratic party. one is for the strike in syria, one against it. also, the republicans, will they vote their beliefs? meaning, are they for the war, if they are, will they vote for it or their hatred of obama? what is going to drive them? will they avoid taking action in syria simply to destroy the president they despise? and then there is vladimir putin. he is actually talking about lobbying members of congress to oppose a strike. finally, let me finish with what could really happen if we attack syria. boy, this is going to be something we're not going to think about enough, what could happen. this is "hardball," the place for politics.
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well, the situation in syria is not just a political and military crisis, it's a growing human tragedy as well. catch this. the u.n. reports the number of syrians forced to seek shelter outside the country since the war began in march of 2011 has just passed the two million person mark. and that was today. two million people displaced. almost all the refugees have gone to neighboring countries -- lebanon, jordan, turkey, egypt, and iraq. and the pictures are from a refugee camp in jordan, which has about a million of the people there. we'll be right back. too small. too soft. too tasty. [ both laugh ] [ male announcer ] introducing progresso's new creamy alfredo soup. inspired by perfection. new creamy alfredo soup. and didn't know where to start. a contractor before
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i would not be going to congress if i wasn't serious about consultations and believing that by shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission, we will be more effective. >> welcome back to "hardball" that was of course president obama earlier today moments before addressing members of congress in a closed door meeting on syria. while congress has spent much of
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its time battling the president's agenda, they now face the ultimate decision of involving the united states in a war. not surprisingly, there are divisions, infighting and political land mines everywhere you turn. while the president has typically enjoyed a unified caucus of democrats to support his agenda, he facing a daunting that military action is our only option. according to a whip list, only nine democrats, nine out of 435 openly support the president's push for military involvement in syria. more than 30 are against it, or leaning that way. many remain undecided, of course. representative charles rangel of new york, he is a democrat, of course, has called obama's handling of the situation embarrassing. in a statement he said military engagement should be our last resort and stop and think whether it is worth sending our brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to fight. he'll be facing off with jim moran for virginia who sees intervention right now in syria as necessary. in a system from jim moran, he says president obama was absolutely right in setting a red line against the use of weapons of mass destruction by bashar al assad. the united states has the only true ability to prevent the use
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and proliferation of such weapons. well, congressman charlie rangel and jim moran both join us, very different views. mr. rangel, if this goes down, if the president of the united states suffer what's the british would call a no-confidence vote on a matter of war and peace, isn't he basically finished as commander in chief? how does he walkway from a defeat if your side wins this debate? >> if we have the international community saying this is the right thing, this guy is an international tyrant and a danger to the whole world, even though i don't see a direct danger to our national security, it would it seems to me for the first time that i can remember, putin from russia may have the right solution, and that is to go and diplomatically try to find out what we could do to intervene without going to war. >> but that's not answering the political challenge to the president of the united states who you have always supported. if obama goes down on this, if
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he is defeated on a matter of urgent national security as he sees it, is he still credible as president, as commander in chief? >> credibility, i hope it doesn't fall, because the president said that he has drawn a red line. if you think or if anyone thinks that drawing a red line that means that a president can commit the united states to war without the support of the congress, that just happens to be wrong. from a constitutional professor, i would say that would be more embarrassing than anything else. but drawing red lines, there is no place for that if you're talking about bringing our country into a war-time situation. >> mr. rangel's position. what is yours? his position was the president was wrong to draw this line in the first place. he shouldn't be asking congress to back it up. what is your view? >> well, charlie knows i love him, and we usually agree, but boy, i think you're wrong on this one, charlie. this is about much more than assad and syria. this is about the kind of world we leave to our children and grandchildren.
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can we really allow the use of chemical weapons to be the new norm of war fighting? it's not just the president that laid down the red line. the congress passed the syria accountability act half a dozen years ago and specifically cited the use of chemical weapons and told assad not to use them. we are the only country that can stop this. and if we have the ability, we also have the responsibility to stop it. >> jim, i tell you how much i love you. first of all, let's make it abundantly clear that no congress has ever voted to go to war because of what we think about chemical weapons being used against innocent people. >> we're not going to war, charlie. >> listen, listen -- jim, there is no such thing as a half war or make-believe. war is war. and i'm not going to discuss that. what i am willing to discuss that you are right. >> oh, okay. let mr. rangel speak for a second here. >> all right.
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>> a limited war. having said, that i mean a limited war is iraq and iran and 6500 people killed. having said all of that, it is a serious international problem. we shouldn't let gangsters and monsters like this go free. but we also should talk about why we have a united nations, a security council. why we have the arab league, why we have nato why we have great britain. we are not the only -- if we're the only people, jim, to see this as an international problem, i think we ought to take another look and see whether or not war is the answer to it. >> is there any way, mr. moran, of limiting this to one strike? i've never heard the american people passionate about one strike, but only one. for example, you have people, respected republicans like mccain and lindsey graham out there getting the president sort
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of tied in today with the idea, well, we'll support you, they said on sunday, but this means you got to help was the rebels too. in other words, it's like chinese handcuffs. the president says i'll do this. next thing he is committing himself to helping the rebels more than he is. isn't he being dragged into the war by the hawks, by supporting them? >> both presidents reagan and clinton used strategic strikes. they knew that they had the ability and they used it in a timely and proportionate fashion. israel has done it several times -- syria, iraq, hezbollah, et cetera. and it's not about going to war. it's about responding. as i'm saying, this is not just about syria and assad. this is about saying we will not allow the use of weapons of mass destruction to become the new norm. and we're the only ones that can enforce that. and we should enforce that. you know, if we have the largest military in the world, which we do, greater than the sum total of every other nation, the rest of the world looks to us -- >> jim, jim. >> 20 seconds for mr. rangel.
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>> one thing you're missing, jim, that we're not only the nation that have got men and women in the armed forces. true, our elite population does not enlist to join as a volunteer army. but we're not the only country that got young people. and i don't see any reason that i can explain to my constituents that their boys and their husbands and their brothers and their sisters should be going off to fight this monster for a civil war and have that as a priority to homelessness, joblessness, and all the other serious problems we face. i can't sell that. >> mr. moran, mr. rangel, this debate is what is happening in the democratic party right now. 46% for going into action against syria on this issue, just striking at their bases, and 46% against. your debate was just saw is exactly essentially what is going on on the progressive side of things. >> but chris, sometimes you just have -- and charlie knows this, sometimes you just have to do the right thing. and he has done that many a
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time. there was 80% support for the iraq war when i opposed it because i felt just as strongly it was the wrong thing to do. and that is a residual effect of the iraq war. this is a very much about the iraq war. >> no president -- >> if we hadn't made that mistake. >> we'll have you back. back on again. >> no president since franklin roosevelt has abided by the constitution. and just because the congress caves in each and every time doesn't mean that caving in again is the right thing to do, jim. >> ah, charlie. >> we have to go right now. >> it's only the constitution. if you say ah, it's only the constitution, i understand your position. going to war, 6500 people. >> this is a debate america is having right now. especially on the progressive side. thank you congressman charles rangel of new york, u.s. congressman jim moran of virginia. when we come back, republicans have a chance to do what they like to do best, humiliate president obama. will they vote their beliefs on
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war and peace or their hatreds of obama? you guess. i'm already thinking about it. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics.
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welcome back to "hardball." by seeking congressional input in the military action in syria, president obama is engaging a faction of the republican party, particularly house republicans that have shown absolute contempt for his legislative goals and for him personally. they appear to relish humiliating any time they can. today following a meeting with the president, house speaker john boehner got behind the president. >> this is something that the united states as a country needs to do. i'm going to support the president's call for action. i believe my colleagues should support this call for action. we have enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior. >> well, there is a man who
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doesn't hate obama every hour of the day, obviously, because in that moment he supported him. hours later, boehner's own spokesperson put out a statement creating some distance between the speaker and the president. quote, the speaker offered his support for the president's call to action and encourages all members of congress to do the same thing. now it is the president's responsibility to make the case to the american people and their elected representatives. everyone understands it is an uphill battle to pass the resolution, and the speaker expects the white house to provide answers to questions and take the lead on any whipping effort, in other words, get the vote out. in other words, boehner's message to obama is while you might have my support, you're on your own getting other republicans. will republicans let their votes be dominated by their beliefs or by their contempt for the president? you guess. we'll soon see which is stronger. michael steele, former chair of the republican national committee, and jonathan capehart, both msnbc contributors. it seems to me boehner his impulse was to help the president, but on reflection with his staff and perhaps with some hard right staffers, he comes back with yeah, i'm for it myself.
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but you better get out there and beat the bushes for votes. and don't count on too many republicans because it's going to be a hard sell. you get the nice talk from khrushchev, then the hard liners get in there. it just seems a different tone in a matter of minutes. >> i don't think it was matter of minutes. i think it was part of a very well orchestrated effort on the one hand to get out in front and say after the meeting with the president, that as speaker of the house, you know, i support the president's effort here. and then make it very clear that yeah, the president is going to have to work the members, because we've all been in this room before. we know what that dance is like. >> why doesn't he say -- >> doing the one-two step. >> why doesn't he say this is a bipartisan effort, or everett dirksen say -- >> because it's not. chris, you just did a segment with two democratic congressmen, and it was very clear that this is not, you know, that kind of an effort where, you know, anyone can get out and say he is bipartisan in terms of helping the president move that forward. the president is going to have to build this thing piece by piece.
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and i think boehner just very clearly said mr. president, you will have to work your members, and you're going have to work my members. >> i think the president stepped into a pothole here, jonathan. i haven't taken a position yet on this. it's very tricky. i'm not going to make up my mind for a couple of days. let me tell you this. i've seen the arguments of charlie's and jim morans. i like them both, and i think they're both speaking from different perspectives today. they might take different perspectives other days. here is my political concern. the president is basically saying to boehner, i'll take whatever scraps i can get from your table, but i'm going make up the difference with democratic votes. how in the world are the democrats who are in the minority in the house of representatives going to make up a majority vote without voting like two-to-one for an act of war they really don't want? this is the terrible situation he is in. >> well, sure. >> forcing the democrats like
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hauling them up to the well, twisting their arms and saying vote for this thing because i want you to. >> chris, this is going to be a very important -- >> terrible. >> it's a terrible situation that the president is in, that the country is in. >> no, he put himself in this. >> exactly. right now i understand that. but, i mean, i think it's now what i got from the boehner spokesperson's later statement after the speaker spoke was that mr. president, you're going to have to work hard. i think i'm agreeing with michael here that the president is going to have to work very hard the democratic members of the house. as the previous segment showed, there is a lot of disagreement among democrats. but here is something that is not so out of the ordinary. >> i'm going to past that. are you implying that the majority of republican house members will vote for this act of war? >> oh, no, no, no, no. no, no, no. i'm not saying that at all, chris. i'm saying that the president is going to have to work the democratic members of congress, democratic members of the house to get this through. speaker boehner is going to have to work as hard as he can and as much as they will listen to him. his members of the house caucus
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to try to get a majority of votes through to make the resolution pass. because for the resolution not to pass would not only be an embarrassment to president obama, which is probably what a lot of those folks in the house and some in the senate would love to have happen, it would be an embarrassment for the office of the president and an embarrassment for the united states. >> let me ask you, michael. what do you think will be the reaction of the back benchers on the republican side of the house if this vote goes down? i say they're cheering in the cloakroom. cheering. >> they may be cheering in the cloakroom from the standpoint that you think they've personalized this whole thing. but i think you discount that there is a legitimate concern and a lot of republicans despite what some may believe did learn from the bush years, did learn from the march to war that was undertaken at this time who were very hesitant, but did the right
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thing and fell in line that aren't necessarily inclined to do that this time, chris. so i think there may be some cheering from the standpoint, less of the personal, you know, slap in the face to the president, and more of sort of an appreciation of the process this time will have worked unlike it did the last time. >> let me think of three reasons why the republicans don't have to vote for the president, despite all the grand reasons jonathan, you and i know about, the grand national reasons. they can say as inhofe of oklahoma said the other day or over the weekend, we don't have the materiel, we don't have the forces, we don't have the equipment in the air to do the job because of sequestration. they can say they don't trust obama personally not to carry out the war further because they
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don't like the way he has handled it so far, the context of this thing. they can make all kinds of arguments about ideology, whatever. it seems to me they have a pretty free hand of being original. you go back to your district and say i would have voted for this except that i didn't like the language of the bill. whereas democrats can't go home. they're going to have to say look, i viewed the president. i screwed our president. first jonathan on this. because i think the republicans are going to have an easy time getting out of the handcuffs, whereas democrats are going to have a harder time, which is so unfair because they don't really believe in this war. >> right. i understand that. and i completely debt get that, chris. but this is where the salesmanship operation of the white house is sort of flood the zone. >> how good as that been? >> they're doing now.
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it's only been day one. >> how good has he been with dealing with congress? >> well, up until this point, not very good. he hasn't been doing very well in that regard. but that's why this is -- what they're doing now is extremely important. for this vote to pass the president has to make his case and make his case convincingly to enough members of congress so that it passes. because if it doesn't, it will be devastating for his credibility, for the office's credibility, and for the nation's credibility on the world stage. there is no way around that. >> hey, chris, i wanted to pick up on a point you just made about the republicans, the three steps, the third point that you made about them going back to their districts. what you don't realize, what they're hanging back in their districts is we don't want this. >> yeah. >> so there is no inclination from the base. >> my point. >> to push this. >> my point. >> and you saw this played out in the senate hearing. >> that's my point, michael. why should they vote for a president they don't like for a war they don't like an their people don't like. >> that's consistent with the left as well. >> i'm with you. >> their people don't like it too. >> it's worse for them -- michael, oh, you doubled down. i'm doubling down on what you're saying. i'm agreeing with you, and saying -- >> i know. i just don't like your reason. >> don't be afraid to associate with my remarks. thank you very much, michael steele. and thank you, jonathan capehart. >> thanks, chris. >> we'll be right back with the sideshow. this is "hardball," place for politics.
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back to "hardball." time for the sideshow. questions about whether to intervene in syria have ignited another debate, one over geography. nick christoph of the new york sometimes summed it up in a tweet on saturday. now members of congress will have to consult maps and figure out where syria is.
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and politico also reported that half of americans can't find syria on a map that may be so, and they said the same thing about vietnam in the '60s. but these days, thanks to the internet, it's not hard to find out. take a look at the wikipedia page since the beginning of the month. it has spiked significantly. people are trying to learn. you could see the looming prospect of war concentrates the mind, to rip off a sam johnson quote. there is now a game to test your geographic mettle. it's called damascus. and it challenges you to pinpoint it on a blank map of the world. over 100,000 people have played with varying degrees of success and some were as far off as italy and china. but many were within the ballpark. syria is on the mediterranean and shares a border with five other middle eastern countries -- turkey, iraq, jordan, lebanon, and israel. up next, the russians are coming, the russians are coming, to lobby congress on a syria issue. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics.
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republicans have been warning that if democrats win the house back next year, nancy pelosi will become speaker again. well, maybe not. the national journal interviewed pelosi. here is how it reported part of their conversation. national journal, do you wish for a chance for the speaker position again? pelosi, no. that's not my thing. i did that pelosi's office contested the working of the question and asked for a correction, but the magazine says its audiophile backs up what it reported.
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help cover what medicare doesn't pay. and could save you thousands a year in out-of-pocket costs. call now to request your free decision guide. and learn more about the kinds of plans that will be here for you now -- and down the road. i have a lifetime of experience. so i know how important that is. forces are advancing. in some areas they have surrounded the rebels. to think at such a time they would give a trump card to those calling for intervention is utter nonsense. >> we're back that was russian president vladimir putin calling claims that syria has used chemical weapons on its people nonsense. well, throughout the bloody
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civil war in syria, u.s. relations with syria have been strained due to russian support for syrian president bashar al assad. an now there is this. putin is proposing sending a delegation of russian lawmakers to lobby the u.s. congress to oppose a military strike on syria. the back and forth between the u.s. and russia has greatly increased tensions between two countries that had worked hard for years to become global partners after the dark ages of the cold war. joining me right to discuss this are simon marks, feature story news, and fiona hill with the brookings institution. simon, start with this question. it seems to me that neither side in the world ever fully understands the sensitivities of the other. what makes putin loyal to assad and very sensitive to the fact we may be helping to overthrow him? >> well, i think there is a couple different issues at play here, chris.
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first of all, there is a business relationship between the russians and the syrians that goes back decades and is now reasonably lucrative for russia. so to some extent, he is simply protecting his pocketbook. but he is also seeing bashar al assad as he saw edward snowden, the fugitive whistle-blower as a pawn in a new great game for global power and influence. and bashar al assad is useful to him because it allows the syrian president -- allows the russian president to confront the united states and barack obama over this issue of syria. >> so you think he's just a mischievous little s.o.b.? you don't think there's geopolitics behind this, in other words, alliances that have to be honored, old relationships with the assad family has to be loyal to? you think it's all petty? >> i don't think it's all petty. i think there are clearly old relationships between bashar al assad's family, his father, for example, and senior figures in the old soviet union. vladimir putin would drop bashar al assad if he thought it was in his interests. >> i'm always assuming larger ambitions for people than just pettiness. what do you think? what do you know as an expert about russia's intentions?
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it could very well splatter all over the globe if we go after assad and do him damage. mr. vladimir putin is a man of tremendous pride and will have to react somewhat negatively to us. >> i think what putin is most worried about is the splattering a little bit closer to home. it's the blowback over what we could see over the implosions in syria, but specific blowback for russia, itself. beyond some of the issues that simon has alluded to, some of the more micro-level interests in syria, itself, there are several things putin doesn't like about the possible scenario of u.s. intervention. the first is he doesn't like regime change. he's been pretty much opposed to this. he fears what goes around somewhere else could come back at home and there might be some people out there who would like to see him gone from russia. he doesn't like the u.s. interventions just period. he hasn't exactly seen a great deal from his perspective of positive things come out of those. you may recall that he grudgingly behind the scenes seemed to acquiesce in the intervention of libya and spent time complaining, while president dmitry medvedev's decision to go along with this. there's also some population interplay between syria and
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russia and putin has the sochi olympics coming up fast in 2014 as we get into the new year, the winter olympics in the southern part of russia and there are populations of peoples from that region who are expelled from the russian empire into the ottoman empire into what is now syria, 150 years ago and there's been lots of threats from terrorist groups and individuals in syria to bring back terrorist attacks to the old -- >> yes, yes. i read this. fiona, i want to go back to simon and have you ratify that. from the time of the efforts of the jewish people to get out of russia, we'd hear about the nationalities issue. the fear was that the jewish people were allowed to leave to go to the holy land or go to israel or to the united states or somewhere in the west, everybody would want out. this sense of everything coming apart. the biggest russian fear as they led their empire was they didn't belong together. that their people to the south who didn't have any love for russians. fiona, i want to go back to simon and have you ratify that. from the time of the efforts of the jewish people to get out of russia, we'd hear about the
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nationalities issue. the fear was that the jewish people were allowed to leave to go to the holy land or go to israel or to the united states or somewhere in the west, everybody would want out. this sense of everything coming apart. the biggest russian fear as they led their empire was they didn't belong together. that their people to the south who didn't have any love for russians. white or otherwise. here we go. is this, again, the situation that there's this sense of hold on to the way things were, don't let anything change, keep assad in power because this thing could implode all over our old empire as well. >> look, i think it's not just that sense, although that plays into it, but it's also the desire of vladimir putin to be seen as a regional leader, to be seen as a figure of influence in his own backyard. i mean, there are those who think that actually he would quite like to put back together some semblance of the old soviet union. you can't put the whole thing back together, but this is a man who wants to be seen as a
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regional geopolitical power broker and defines the region broadly. >> let me ask you this, fiona, on a lower level, is it possible putin is simply acting like charles de gaulle did in the '60s and late '50s? he wanted to make life difficult. that was the gaullest strategy. be difficult. is there a part that doesn't want to be friendly to obama, simply as that? >> absolutely. this plays extremely well at home. the whole story about sending out delegations of the russian doom and the russian parliament to meet with members of congress, this is just a piece of political theater. it plays well for the domestic audience who enjoy -- >> you know what they have now? enough money to pay for the plane trips. thank you so much, simon marks, from the brookings institution. miss fiona hill. when we return, let me finish with what could very well happen in the united states makes this move on syria, if it gets the call from the congress. you're watching "hardball." the place for politics.
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let me finish tonight with this. now for just a minute, just think, let's all think what could happen if we do attack syria. doesn't syria then make a move on israel? it's already said pretty much that saying a u.s. attack would lead to a wider regional war. what does hezbollah do? the see sizive ally syria has. what stops hezbollah from firing away with its tens of thousands of conventional rockets?
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what do you russia will do? will putin sit there like a puppy and take the humiliation? will he act in ways he knows and we will know that hurts precisely what we're attempting to do in the region? i'm betting he does something. he's not the kind of person who sits and thinks and pouts. he acts. finally, iran. what will iran do when we attack another shia-led country? its number one and actually only friend in the region. do we believe the people of iran, the secular more modern part of the society as much as the more traditional and religious will think that the united states is behaving like an imperialist? i do. when the pictures from the hospitals hit television sets throughout the arab and islamic world, throughout the globe, does anyone think the united states will not be rallied against, hated once again as we are each time we decide to strike in an islamic country? does anyone sane on this planet not think the pictures from the hospitals are not coming within hours of our attack on syria?
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we watch obama challenge a congress that doesn't like him to do something it doesn't want to do. this, my friends, is a tough one, don't you think? that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from washington, d.c. i'm chris hayes. tonight on "all in," the contested case for war in syria as the secretaries of state and defense face the foreign relations committee. they find a senate much like the country divided across unlikely lines. we will debate it all here coming up. also tonight, president obama is heading to russia. who he is going to meet with may completely surprise you. surprised me. we're going to talk about it. plus, we're not sure where exactly mitch mcconnell stands on the proposed syria situation, but we know where he is on women's issues. he's for them. just as long as you don't pay attention to his record. the all new mitch mcconnell,

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